Apr 15, 2015

Creative Sermon Titles

A number of years ago, I used to receive an email “update and ezine” called The Preacher’s Study by Dave Redick. These updates often provided helpful information and addressed practical topics related to preaching. I am not sure if it is still being put out and a quick Google search was inconclusive. In any case, while going through some of my old files, I came across a good discussion on “The Art of Creatively Naming Your Sermons.” I thought I might share a bit from that article.

Redick notes that, “a good title draws attention to what is going to be said in the sermon.” Attention can be drawn in one of three ways: (1) provoking curiosity, (2) promising answers, and (3) providing explanations.”
In discussing the first way, provoking curiosity, Redick provides some examples of titles that might provoke curiosity.
  • “Running All the Red Lights” (The high cost of disregarding the commandments of God)
  • “Going to the Dogs” (2 Pet 2:22 - apostasy)
  • “Acts: The Book of Non-conversions” (A look at those in Acts who were not converted.) “Nearsighted People Can't Add” (2 Pet 1:3-10)
  • “The Little Red Devil Behind the Pearly White Gates” (The tongue)
  • “Forty Thousand Pounds of Deviled Ham Lost At Sea” (An expository sermon on the two demoniacs in Gergasa - Matt 8:28-34)
  • “One Meal You Can't Eat in the Kitchen” - (The story of Mary and Martha)
  • "The Church of the Living Dead” (An exposition of the account of the church at Sardis in Revelation)
  • “Don't Bite the Apple until You Check for Worms” (On finding a mate)
  • “Eighty Words of Terror from the Depths of Hades” (A sermon on Hell from Luke 16)

Sermon titles can also generate interest by promising answers. Such titles might include something like these listed by Redick.

  • “You Can Beat Depression”
  • “Seven Ways to Affair Proof Your Marriage”
  • “How to Win Over Worry”
  • “How to Sweeten a Sour Marriage”
  • “Nine Good Habits That Will Make Your Marriage Sing.”
  • “How to Stay Up When Your Work Has You Down.”
  • "Seven Ways to Win Your Parents Over to Your Way of Thinking.”
  • “How to Quiet a Noisy Rooster” (Conscience, based on Peter's Denial of Jesus)
  • “Three Secrets of a Great Life”
  • “Seven Habits of Highly Spiritual People”
  • “What Every Wife Would Like Her Husband to Know”
  • “What Every Husband Would Like His Wife to Know”
  • “What Every Boy Wants His Dad to Know”
  • “What Every Girl Wants Her Dad to Know”
  • “Five Steps to a Happier Life”
  • “How to Get Your Life Together and Prepare for Eternity”
  • “You Can Overcome Your Bad Habits”
  • Redick summarizes the characteristics common to these titles. That is, they begin with a “how to,” with a number (“Nine things,” “Seven Ways,” “Three Secrets”), and they are plain and simple (“sometimes the plainer they are, the better”)

Finally, Redick suggests that a good sermon title can attract attention by providing explanations. These titles often include “why” or “what” and include the sermon’s proposition. Here are some examples
  • “Why Does God Allow His People to Suffer?”
  • “We’re Under Grace So Why Bother to Overcome Sin?”
  • “What God Looks for in an Employee”
  • “What Happens Five Minutes after I Die?”

In conclusion, Redick does offer some cautions against being too cute, clever, or trite. One also needs to be careful that the title doesn’t over-promise that which the sermon under-delivers. I would also add that one should not spend an inordinate time of the title. Unless your sermons are going to be published, then there are more important elements in your message to focus on. But if you the time, then know that a captivating title is preferable to a pedestrian one.

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